NASA has redefined the scientific approach to exploring Mars in the last few decades. It is the only space agency that has landed multiple rovers on the Red Planet’s surface. NASA has said that its Mars Odyssey spacecraft has completed 20 years of mapping Earth’s neighboring planet. Odyssey spacecraft was launched on April 7 in 2001 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It reached Mars orbit in October same year. The spacecraft is still working. It is sending crucial data from Mars’ orbit. It has now become the longest-lived spacecraft on Mars. Notably, it was the Odyssey spacecraft that helped NASA to locate water ice on Mars. It provided data to assess safe landing sites for rovers. Odyssey also allowed scientists to study the mysterious moons of Mars.
The orbiter was named after renowned writer C Clarke’s science novel A Space Odyssey. It was first published in 1968. Odyssey spacecraft was launched by NASA to map the Martian surface’s composition. It mapped Mars in high resolution. It provided scientists with data to understand how the Red Planet evolved. The spacecraft has done more than its original goals. NASA said that Odyssey’s 20 years of service is a boon for Mars researchers. Besides uncovering water ice, it also serves as a communication link for other spacecraft. It helped the agency in preparing for safer landings on Mars’ surface. NASA said that data from the spacecraft will play a crucial role in preparing for its future mission to send astronauts to Mars for exploration.
NASA in a statement noted that humans didn’t know where water was stored on Mars before Odyssey made the vital discovery. The orbiter allowed scientists to detected water ice on Mars. It used that gamma-ray spectrometer detector to locate water. The presence of water on Mars was confirmed later by the Phoenix probe that landed on the planet’s surface in 2008. NASA said that the orbiter’s infrared camera helped to complete the global mapping of Mars for years. Besides mapping valley networks and craters, the spacecraft spotted sandstone and more. The camera also measured Mars’ surface temperature. This allowed researchers to understand the existence of physical materials like a rock on Mars. It sent more than a million pictures of Mars since entering the planet’s orbit.